APPA honors WAPA customers for service, innovation

Congratulations to the four WAPA customers who were among 18 individuals and 10 utilities to receive awards at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference in Orlando, Fla., on June 20. Lincoln Electric System You are leaving WAPA.gov. (LES), Colorado Springs Utilities, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. and SMUD You are leaving WAPA.gov. earned recognition for their service to the public power industry and its member-customers

Continuing to excel
LES, a Nebraska municipal utility, earned the E.F. Scattergood System Achievement Award for outstanding accomplishments that enhance public power’s national prestige, improve customer service and demonstrate an earnest, coordinated effort on the part of the system.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity. (Artwork by Nebraska Energy Office)

In 2016, LES unveiled the state’s largest and first utility-scale solar array, Lincoln’s 5-megawatt (MW) community solar facility. Customers can invest in virtual solar panels, receiving credits on their bill. Improvements were also implemented to the utility’s rate structure to encourage energy efficiency and protect customers sensitive to bill fluctuation.

In the community, LES’s Energy Detective Kits teach students and their parents about saving energy, reducing water usage and lowering their household bills.

With a 99.99-percent reliability record, the utility continues to take strides to make sure its power remains dependable. Its mobile meter-reading project upgraded nearly all of the system’s 137,000 analog meters.

Supporting community
An established and evolving community safety program won the Community Service Award for Colorado Springs Utilities of Colorado. This award recognizes “good neighbor” activities that demonstrate commitment to the local community.

The community safety program, which has been a cornerstone of the municipal utility’s community involvement for 20 years, provides educational outreach in schools and at community events to audiences of all ages. Each year, almost 15,000 students, adults, contractors and first responders learn about gas and electric safety and about the safe and efficient use of utility services.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary. (Photo by Colorado Springs Utilities)

Recently, Colorado Springs Utilities revised and retargeted the education program to meet specific curriculum needs in schools and incorporate more messaging that is interactive and inquiry-based. “SafetyCircuit: Electric Safety and You” uses a live electric demonstrations board to show students the safe use of electricity indoors and outdoors, and how electricity affects our daily lives. An interactive live explosion demonstration is part of “Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety & You,” a program teaching students about the properties and origins of natural gas and safety practices to prevent natural gas emergencies.

Increasing residential program participation
Fort Collins Utilities in Colorado and SMUD in California were among the four utilities to receive the Energy Innovator Award for utility programs or projects that demonstrate creative energy-efficiency measures or technologies. Eligible demonstrations can either improve customer service or increase the efficiency of utility operations. Judging criteria also includes transferability and takes into account project scope in relation to utility size.

The Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program.

The Fort Collins Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program. (Artwork by Fort Collins Utilities)

Fort Collins Utilities was honored for its successful Efficiency Works-Neighborhood You are leaving WAPA.gov. pilot program, which tested a streamlined process for home efficiency upgrades. The streamlined process made efficiency upgrades easy for customers by offering a choice of three packages—good, better and best—each custom-made for their homes. The packages provided upfront rebates, used standardized pricing, eliminated the need to get multiple contractor bids and ensured the quality of all completed work.

Over an 18-month period, the pilot program tripled the number of customers proceeding with energy-efficiency improvements and renewable systems installation. The upgrades lead to 50 percent greater electrical use reduction, 70 percent greater natural gas use reduction and 60 percent greater greenhouse gas savings per home.

Piloting cooling efficiency
SMUD received the Energy Innovator Award for its work with the hyper-efficient Climate Wizard air conditioner. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Manufactured in Australia, the Climate Wizard has the potential to use up to 90 percent less energy to cool the same space as an equivalent refrigerated system.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure. (Photo by Climate Wizard)

Replacing conventional air conditioners with these indirect evaporative heat-exchange core systems could have a huge impact on SMUD’s peak cooling load during scorching Sacramento summer days. To evaluate the Climate Wizard’s performance, SMUD installed units with two industrial customers, a data center and a tool manufacturer You are leaving WAPA.gov..

The Tri-Tools production floor is not only hot from milling, turning and cutting metals, it is also humid from using water to cool materials during cutting. Because the Climate Wizard does not add moisture to the cooled air; it keeps employees more comfortable and improves the production process while saving the business energy and money.

The challenge for the data center Datacate is to maintain a consistently low temperature to keep servers and other equipment running 24/7. This pilot project, which will continue through 2017, has allowed the data center to operate more efficiently, add more capacity and lower operating costs.

The hallmarks of public power are dedication to community, commitment to innovation and constant striving to improve service. At WAPA, we already know our customers are leaders in the industry and we are excited to see that the industry recognizes them, too.

Source: American Public Power Association, 6/21/17

Solar garden to power Colorado town’s municipal buildings

The city of Manitou Springs, ColoradoRedirecting to a non-government site recently took the historic step of signing a contract to receive up to 100 percent of city facilities’ energy needs from community solar.

The fully subscribed Venetucci Solar Garden is one of two pilot projects SunShare built and operates for Colorado Springs Utilities. (Photo by SunShare)

The fully subscribed Venetucci Solar Garden is one of two pilot projects SunShare built and operates for Colorado Springs Utilities. (Photo by SunShare)

A 3,000-panel array, being built by locally based SunShare Redirecting to a non-government site community solar company, will provide Manitou with 0.5 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy. The city will pay 5.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to its power provider Colorado Springs UtilitiesRedirecting to a non-government site which will distribute the power. Springs Utilities agreed last fall to buy renewable energy certificates (RECs) amounting to 4 cents per kWh from SunShare, allowing the project to move forward.

Construction on the 2-MW solar garden will occur over the summer, and the facility is expected to begin generating in October.

Groundbreaking decision
The Manitou Springs City Council unanimously approved the agreement with SunShare on April 15. According to SunShare, Manitou Springs may be the first city in the U.S. to choose to source 100 percent its energy needs from community solar.

The decision marked the culmination of a public process lasting several months including presentations to Manitou Springs City Council, public comments and a work session. However, it was a comment by a city official three years earlier that set the deal into motion. Manitou Mayor Pro-Tem Coreen Toll said that she wanted governments and businesses to be able to buy power from solar gardens just as homeowners and school districts were allowed to do.

In a news release announcing the decision, Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder observed that the program could serve as an example to the community and other cities. “Not only will our city facilities be powered by solar, but thanks to Colorado Springs Utilities, every resident and business in Manitou Springs now has the ability to join us in this community solar program,” said the mayor.

Laying groundwork
The framework for Manitou’s solar purchase began with a pilot project in 2011. Springs Utilities partnered with SunShare to build and operate two community solar gardens totaling 1 MW.  SunShare sold individual Springs customers 0.4-kW shares up to 120 percent of their average annual energy use. Customers receive a credit on their monthly bills for their shares’ generation, and may transfer their shares to another address or another Utilities customer if they move.

The two pilot gardens are fully subscribed, and government agencies like the city of Manitou Springs and businesses will be able to buy shares in the new 2-MW facility. “Community solar has been extremely popular in Colorado Springs,” acknowledged Jerry Forte, CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities. “We’re proud that we were one of the first communities to create this option for our customers with SunShare.”

To make the solar garden program more accessible to more customers, Springs Utilities added the option of a performance-based incentive this year. “That change helps to mitigate some of the upfront costs of buying into the solar garden,” explained David Grossman, a spokesman for Springs Utilities.

Statewide support
Manitou’s decision to go solar in its municipal facilities, and the support the city received from Springs Utilities, is part of the larger success story of community solar in Colorado. The state legislature passed the country’s first Community Solar Gardens Act in 2010, an act that inspired 16 states from Minnesota to California to create similar programs.

The pilot program Springs Utilities launched in 2011 was the first of its kind for a municipal utility, but more utilities—both public and investor owned—are following suit. SunShare has additional projects underway with Xcel Energy and Fort Collins Utilities totaling more than 13 MW, enough capacity to serve more than 3,000 homes.

Win-win…win!
Going solar will help Manitou meet its goal of reducing its carbon emissions 30 percent by 2020 six years ahead of schedule, based on a 2008 carbon inventory. The city is currently discussing an arrangement with SunShare to use the array to power its streetlights, as well. “That would be a great opportunity because it would reduce our carbon footprint by more than 60 percent,” said Mayor Snyder. “Streetlights are handled under a different agreement than other municipal facilities, however, so it will take some negotiations to work that out.”

As good as these decisions are for the environment, they make economic sense, too. Although the city still pays Springs Utilities for distribution, its energy costs will be fixed. “I am pretty confident this will help us not only meet our carbon reduction goals, but also save us money,” Mayor Snyder said.

The growth of solar farms in its territory is good for Spring Utilities, too. Because the municipal utility serves more than 100,000 meters (214,600, to be precise), the state’s renewable portfolio standard applies to it. The RECs purchased from SunShare are helping Springs Utilities meet the goal of 20 percent of its retail electricity sales from renewable sources by 2020. “We are about at 10 percent renewables, now, counting our hydroelectric power from Western,” said Grossman.

He added that solar power has some coincident peak generation with the utility’s load so it helps meet demand in the growing city.

David Amster-Olszewski, President and CEO of SunShare, praised Colorado Springs Utilities, Manitou Springs and its citizens for their leadership in recognizing the benefits of community solar. “Working with the city of Manitou Springs has been an absolute pleasure and I can’t wait to help them achieve their goals,” he said.